In a big home win over the Portland Trail Blazers, it’d be easy to get wrapped up with Stephen Curry‘s gaudy stat line. Putting up 38 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to go with two steals and only two turnovers is certainly impressive and deserving of admiration, but if Golden State Warriors fans are looking for reassurance that this team can compete for a championship after losing four of five games last week, Curry’s numbers won’t do it.
Instead, those fans should look to an impressive defense that was on full display last night in Golden State’s win over the Blazers, since the Warriors held the league’s highest scoring offense to just 88 points on 34 percent shooting. After becoming a top 10 defense in the league with Andre Iguodala‘s return, the Dubs slipped to No. 12 in the NBA in the past few weeks, allowing 99.9 points per game on the season. But last night, it wasn’t just Curry’s stellar night that showed why this team is a dangerous playoff matchup for any team in the West.
The Blazers average 109.5 points per game; they were held to less than 90 for the first time all season against the Warriors Sunday night. Portland also leads the league in rebounds per game at 46.5, so although Golden State surrendered 54 boards to the Blazers, the Dubs were able to minimize that damage with 51 rebounds of their own. Most encouraging of all, the Warriors won the turnover battle, forcing 14 Portland turnovers while only coughing the ball up nine times.
Every team has off shooting nights and part of the credit has to attributed to the dumb luck of catching the league’s most dangerous offenses on such a night. But the Dubs also did everything they needed to do to win Sunday night’s game and showed how dangerous they can be when they keep the emphasis on their defense. Andrew Bogut only scored four points, but his two blocks and the countless other shots he altered around the rim had a tremendous impact on the game since Portland finished with only 26 points in the paint.
In their 27 wins this season, Golden State is allowing opponents 90.8 points per game. In their 18 losses, they’ve surrendered an average of 108.3 points per game. For a team with the fifth-best defensive rating in the league, it’s pretty evident that Mark Jackson isn’t living in is own fantasy world when he keeps repeating that this is a defense-first team.
It wasn’t just Bogut’s defensive effort that stood out. Everyone in a Dub uniform did their part to respond to Jackson calling out his team’s poor defensive effort recently. Andre Iguodala’s perimeter defense was as impeccable as ever. Curry didn’t need to be hidden defensively against Damian Lillard, who finished with 16 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Even David Lee, a normal glaring defensive issue for the Warriors, was challenging shots in the paint as his counterpart LaMarcus Aldridge was held to 10 points on 2-of-14 shooting.
Was such a dominant defensive performance against the league’s most prolific offense just a fluke? Possibly. But a lot of Golden State’s wins this season fit that description, so at what point do the fluke wins start becoming normalcy? The answer, as always, is when the Golden State Warriors play the kind of defense they’re capable of playing on a consistent basis. Curry is spectacular, but he can’t be expected to put up ridiculous numbers like that every game in the postseason. Which means that defense is not only the proven key to winning games, but it’ll also be the only way the Warriors survive the brutal Western Conference.